December 1 marks the beginning of
the Christmas baking season and I always like to start my baking with something Christmassy. Since candy canes are a symbol of Christmas, Candy Cane Cookies
seem fitting. These cute little cookies are tender crisp with a buttery sweet
almond flavor. There is no denying that kids love these cookies, but adults seem to enjoy
them every bit as much, especially with a hot cup of tea.
When you look at these Candy
Cane Cookies you would think they are difficult to make. While I agree
they are a little more labor intensive than say, a regular sugar cookie,
it is not hard work. In fact, this would be a great time to get your kids
involved, as their small hands are well suited to the task of
rolling the small balls of dough into a rope shape. So first
we must make the cookie batter, which follows the basic instructions of
beating the butter with the sugar, adding two egg yolks and vanilla and
almond extracts, and then beating in the flour. There is no baking powder
or baking soda in this recipe, as we do not want the cookies to rise while
they bake, as this would distort their candy cane shape. The first time I
made these cookies I made them peppermint flavored, since candy canes do
taste like peppermint. While tasty, the second time I made the cookies I
replaced the peppermint extract with almond extract, and the results were
much more to my liking. Of course, if you want these cookies to taste like
peppermint, simply replace the almond extract with equal amounts of
peppermint extract. The other thing about the batter is that two egg yolks
are used instead of whole eggs, and this is done to give the cookies a
richer flavor. As always try to use a good quality unsalted butter, and
use extracts that are labeled "pure".
Now, once the cookie batter
is made it is divided in half, and to one half red food coloring is added.
You can use either regular 'liquid' food coloring, the type you can easily buy at
grocery stores, or you can use a red paste food color. If you find the batters too soft,
then place in the refrigerator for 30-60 minutes or just until firm. Then,
take about a walnut sized piece of dough from each of the two batters and
separately roll them each into a rope shape, that is about 4 - 5 inches
(10 - 12.5 cm) long. Twist the two ropes together and place on your
parchment lined baking sheet. Shape the cookies into a cane shape by
curving one end into a hook shape. I like to gently smooth the edges of
the two ropes to soften the lines between the two colors. Once you roll
out the cookies place
them on the baking sheet. (If you find the cookies a little soft, just pop
the baking sheet in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to firm up the
cookies before baking.) The cookies are baked in a moderate oven
just until set and the edges of the cookies are barely tinged with brown.
Do not over bake. Place the baking sheet on a wire rack to cool, as the cookies will be
quite soft and fragile. These cookies will keep, well wrapped, at room
temperature for about a week. The cookies can also be frozen.
Candy Cane Cookies:In
a bowl, whisk the
flour with the salt.
In the bowl of
your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the butter and sugar until
creamy. Add the egg yolks and vanilla and almond extracts and beat until
combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the flour mixture, in
three additions, and beat until you have a smooth dough.
Remove half of the dough from the
mixing bowl. To the remaining half add the red food coloring and beat on low
speed until well blended. If you find the dough too soft, cover and refrigerate
for 30-60 minutes.
Take a walnut sized piece of red
dough and a walnut sized piece of white dough. Separately, roll each color on a
lightly floured surface, into a 4-5 inch (10-12.5 cm) long rope. Place the two
ropes side by side, gently press together, and twist the two ropes to form a
spiral. Place the cookies on a parchment lined baking
sheet, spacing the cookies about 2 inches (5 cm) apart. Shape each cookie into a cane shape by bending one end into a hook shape.
(If you find the cookies a little soft, place the baking sheet (with the unbaked
cookies) in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes before baking.)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190
degrees C) and place rack in center of oven.
Bake cookies for about 8 - 10
minutes or until set and the edges of the cookies are just starting to
brown. Do not over bake. Remove from oven and let cookies cool completely on baking sheet. Cover
and store in an airtight container for about a week. These cookies can be
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